“As reported over the past five years, human traffickers subject Japanese and foreign men and women to forced labor and sex trafficking, and they subject Japanese children to sex trafficking”
– U.S. Department of State, Trafficking In Persons Report, June 2021
Worth an estimated $24 billion(1), the sex industry of Japan is considered enormous by any standard. The pornography industry alone reached a value of approximately $960 million in 2019(2). To meet this huge demand, it comes as no surprise then that thousands of men, women and children are living in conditions of modern day slavery(3).
What is perhaps surprising, is that the general public remains largely unaware of this terrible evil occurring in plain sight. Those that are familiar with the concept of human trafficking perceive it as something that happens in developing countries as a result of poverty and lack of education, certainly not in Japan.
Skyline of Japan with Lets fight human trafficking in the sky
It is a long and slow process for the authorities and non-profit sector to lift the veil on this terrible crime, introduce much needed policy reforms and facilitate a change in the mindset of survivors, perpetrators and the general public at large. Bi-annual meetings between the government and members of JNATIP (Japan Network Against Trafficking in Persons) provides a critical platform to identify issues and develop action plans to address the gaps.
However, despite the efforts of government and activists, the lack of awareness and remaining legal loopholes provide plenty of opportunities to exploit Japanese and foreign women for prostitution, with perpetrators often targeting women (including single mothers) that are vulnerable after losing their regular jobs due to the impact of COVID-19. Many young men are also trapped in the industry, but Japanese legislation only recognizes women as potential victims, making it extremely difficult for men to find a legal avenue out of their situation.
But it’s not just sex trafficking. In recent years, labor exploitation of migrant workers has come into sharp focus in the local and international media. This is specifically prevalent in the government’s Technical Intern Training Program, which despite its good intentions, often finds sending organizations or local employers abusing loopholes in the system to exploit workers through debt bondage and poor working conditions.
Especially disturbing is the exploitation of children. The possession of child sexual abuse images (child pornography) was declared illegal in 2014, a great step forward, but still remains widely available. This contributes to the exploitation of thousands of children for prostitution, sextortion and various other forms of sexual abuse. While law enforcement is cracking down on perpetrators, NPOs such as ZOE Japan focus on raising awareness among parents and children, a key prevention strategy, and supporting survivors of child trafficking with potentially life-saving information and resources.
The It’s A Penalty Tokyo Campaign provides a fantastic opportunity to accelerate these awareness and prevention efforts. Through this campaign, we aim to provide a message of hope to survivors and to actively engage the public in the battle to eliminate human trafficking in Japan.
As an organization on the front line, we are greatly encouraged to have the backing of It’s A Penalty as we move forward with our goal to reach every person and rescue every child.
We are so excited to have finally received our license to open the ZOE Home for Youth (ZHY). “From 2016, when we closed escrow and submitted our plans to receiving our license to open, God has been guiding us, answering prayers and performing miracles along the way,” said Vickie McCoy, ZHY Residential Manager.
“Currently, the ZOE team is working with the Los Angeles County Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) and Department of Probations to interview girls who will come to live at the ZOE Home for Youth. “Our first youth arrived in the middle of August,” said Ester Yu, ZOE Assistant Western USA Regional Director.
“When we are at full capacity, we will have six girls living at the home.”
The ZOE Home for Youth Los Angeles is just one of many homes in America that we hope to build for young survivors of human trafficking. Thank you to all of our donors for praying and supporting us financially to help make this dream a reality.
“I love the home! You guys have thought of everything,” said a survivor leader, after her tour of the ZHY.
Dr. Plunkett: ZHY & Western USA Regional Director – “My role is to make sure we are compliant and our staff are equipped,” said Dr. Plunkett. “I will be teaming up with our ZHY Administrator Temica on this as well as educating the team on trauma-informed care and interventions for the youth from a psychological perspective.”
Temica Wofford: ZHY Administrator – “I am responsible for making sure the girls are receiving their day-to-day programming and activities, and their needs are being met. I will also be supervising staff, facility managers, and specialists and giving them direction on how to handle conflicts as well as setting up trainings.”
Vickie McCoy: ZHY Residential Manager and Youth Specialist – “My role at ZHY will be to maintain an environment of love and safety in the home,” said Vickie. “I will live on-site and serve as a caregiver for the youth while providing support and mentoring in areas such as education, recreation, cleaning, and cooking.”
L-R: Assemblymember Suzette Valladares, ZHY Administrator Temica Wofford, Congressman Mike Garcia, Assemblymember Thomas Lackey and ZOE COO Dave Cox. These and other community leaders toured the ZOE Home for Youth to learn more about the issue of child trafficking in Los Angeles.
ZOE Australia has been working hard to communicate that awareness, education, and support make a difference in seeing children rescued, loved, restored, and healed!
“Our Pathways to Preventing Child Trafficking course equips Australians to respond to modern-day slavery spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and pragmatically,” said David Cross, ZOE Australia Director. “We have nearly 60 students currently enrolled in the online course. We believe that our toolkits help bring awareness to various industries and social-action groups. For faith-based communities we have prayer-based guides which focus on God’s heart for the fatherless. By using ZOE’s curriculums, toolkits, and guides, individuals, groups, and whole communities better understand the problem of human trafficking and work to change their actions towards others – whether directly or indirectly.” ZOE Australia
With UK nonprofit, It’s a Penalty, ZOE Japan is working on the frontlines of a large-scale human trafficking awareness campaign for the Tokyo Summer 2021 Olympics, held July 23rd through August 8th.
“We are excited to be working together with It’s a Penalty to raise awareness of human trafficking around the Tokyo Summer Olympics,” said Hiromi Hataji, ZOE Japan Regional Director.
“We have been preparing various campaign materials and distributing videos, posters, and other awareness materials at airports and train stations in Tokyo, participating hotel groups, and other key locations. The ZOE Japan team has also established a new call center that will receive reports from concerned members of the public and directly from potential survivors of human trafficking.”
ZOE Japan is spearheading the call center and owns the number, but support for survivors is provided in collaboration with other NPOs that are also members of JNATIP (Japan Network Against Trafficking In Persons).
“By utilizing this professional network, we are able not only to provide support to children but also to connect adult survivors with specialist organizations that can support them,” said Hiromi.
“The call center number is the official number used for the It’s A Penalty campaign, providing a great amount of exposure. And, when the Olympics are over, ZOE Japan will continue to use the same call center number for cases related to children.”
Like most countries, many of Mexico’s citizens have never heard of human trafficking. ZOE Mexico is working on innovative ways to educate its citizens about human trafficking. Currently, the team is focusing on speaking with pastors and their churches who are hungry to know how they can help.
Our ZOE Mexico team has also met with several government departments about what steps we can take to inform the public and educate communities about child trafficking, especially the most vulnerable areas. The government recently launched a campaign to bring awareness to human trafficking. Our team is also working with other NGOs to communicate about the problem and dangers to those they serve.
What is Fueling Child Trafficking in Mexico?
Organized crime and greedy opportunists recruit children with force, fraud, or coercion for labor and sex.
Poverty fuels child trafficking – most families do not understand where their children end up; they want to believe the trafficker. They believe their child is safe, going to school, or working a job for a better future.
“We met a mother on the streets with two of her small children involved in high-risk behavior,” said Mauricio Ruiz, Mexico Director.
“Our team encouraged her to allow her children to attend school to get them off the streets. She finally agreed, and the two children are signed up to attend “E Kids School,” a Christian school for at-risk children. These children will receive more than just a great education. They will receive delicious meals and all of their immediate needs met in a safe and loving environment. They will also have an opportunity to hear about Jesus!”
In early July, Thailand placed 10 million people in the capital under new coronavirus restrictions. “With COVID, the whole country shut down,” said Les Ginoza, ZOE Thailand Director. “We had to change the way we have done our awareness programs quickly.”
The ZOE Thailand team focused on creating media and educating underage kids to prevent them from being exploited.
“We developed a lot of videos because we could no longer go village to village or go into schools,” said Les. “When we did that, our reach increased. We were able to touch a lot more people with our awareness program. Although Covid is a terrible issue, God always shows us the silver lining.”
Child Rescue Team
Recently, ZOE Thailand welcomed 16 members of the Foreign Anti-Narcotic and Crime Community of Thailand (FANC) who represent law enforcement from ten different countries.
“This was the very first time we had an international community of law enforcement come together to discuss human trafficking,” said Les. “The group began to work on a plan to better track down perpetrators who have left Thailand and have gone back to their native countries. This is a big issue that we are trying to resolve, and it takes coordination from the entire international community.”
The pandemic and loss of tourism income has thrown millions in Thailand into poverty. “We quickly changed our focus to help provide basic food necessities to the neediest of families,” said Les. “In partnership with Children’s Hunger Fund we donated food packs to families while also sharing the gospel and God’s love for them. Families have been overwhelmed with gratitude.”
On June 25, 2021, eight cyclists from Lancaster County and twelve crew members, all representing ZOE International, finished first place in the non-stop, 3,000-mile transcontinental relay race from California to Maryland, Race Across America (RAAM).
The 2021 RAAM consisted of 7, 8-man cycling teams and 17 teams of 2, 4, and 8, along with 12 solo racers. The ZOE cycling team completed the race in 6 days and 27 minutes with an average speed of 21.03 mph while climbing over 100,000+ feet.
“After competing in 2019, we knew our limitations and capabilities and thought we might have a chance to win this year,” shared Brad. “We set out to do our race and not let the competitors set the race for us. We knew we couldn’t make a mistake. So we plugged all the gaps we had in 2019, and we trained a lot harder this year. Ultimately, we capitalized on the experience we had from 2019 to win the race in 2021!”
For 39 years, the RAAM has become a global icon, challenging ultra-cyclists from over 35 countries to push their physical and mental limits to the utmost. RAAM has also become an enormous platform for cyclists to raise funds for charities that they hold close to their hearts. Each year, RAAM cyclists raise over 10 million dollars in donations, dispersed to multiple charities.
In 2019, the 8-man cyclist team placed third and raised over $175,000 for ZOE International.
ZOE RAAM Team cyclists at the finish line winning first place
This year the team raised over $350,000 for ZOE International. The issue of child sex trafficking is an issue that is close to the team’s heart. “The idea to compete in this race all began when I first traveled to ZOE International in Thailand in 2014,” said Brad Ortenzi, ZOE International Eastern US Regional Director and Race Across America Director and Cyclist.
“While visiting the home for children who have been trafficked at ZOE Thailand, I was inspired by the children’s fight. Every one of them was a fighter – fighting to get their life back. Contact: Brad Ortenzi (717) 708-8109- cell brad@goZOE.org Lonna Gibson (661) 388-1295 lonna@goZOE.org – Continued – Lonna Gibson (661) 388-1295 lonna@goZOE.org Their fight inspired me and changed my life. Competing in the Race Across America allows ZOE to take this fight against child sex trafficking across the United States.”
The eight-man cycling team included Nate Eakin, Matt Lapp, Allen Fisher, Sam Lapp, Elmer Fisher, Jonathan Fisher, Allan Fisher, and Brad Ortenzi – all from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Many team members began training as early as the Fall of 2020, putting in the hours on stationary bikes, riding outdoors, strength training, and swimming.
Cyclist Allan Fisher added, “I wasn’t aware of human trafficking happening in the states. ZOE is bringing freedom to many children, and I want to stand with them because I believe in what they are doing.”
Not only do the cyclists compete in the race, but they also have a goal to raise $20,000 each for ZOE International.
“It costs about $70,000 for us to compete in the race, including the entrance fee, uniforms, helmets, fuel, and travel,” said Brad. “Any additional monies raised over the cost of expenses are donated to ZOE International to help rescue more children and care for and restore the rescued children entrusted in their care.”
Current sponsors for ZOE’s RAAM team are Breeo, Country Lane Gazebos, Weaver Construction, Lapp Structures, Sensenig’s Feed Mill, Select Carpentry, Earthsource, Fisher Brothers, Eagle Rental, Urban Southern, TLS Carpentry, US Boiler Company, Lititz VFW, Lancaster Bike Shop, Bicycle Barn and Campaign Against Sexual Exploitation (CASE).
Locally, Brad is also the Coordinator for the Lancaster County Task Force working alongside the District Attorney’s office and is a few months away from officially launching. The Lancaster County Human Trafficking Task Force will investigate, prosecute, and find restorative paths for trafficking survivors within Lancaster County. This will also include community outreach with prevention education and awareness of trafficking.
ZOE International was founded in 2002 with a mission to reach every person with God’s love and rescue every child from human trafficking through prevention, rescue, and restoration efforts in the USA, Thailand, Mexico, Japan, and Australia. More information about ZOE International can be found at goZOE.org and the 2021 Race Across America at www.raceacrossamerica.org.
8 Lancaster County cyclists prepare for 3,000-mile bike race to raise $250K to fight sex trafficking
Erik Yabor – Staff Writer
A group of Lancaster County residents are preparing to set off on a 3,000 mile bike trek to raise money for an international nonprofit that combats child sex trafficking.An eight-man relay team and 12 crew members depart from Oceanside, California, on Saturday with a plan of arriving in Annapolis, Maryland, less than a week later as part of Race Across America (RAAM), an annual ultra-endurance cycling race that spans the United States.
“It is a race,” said team leader Brad Ortenzi, 53, a former Ephrata police detective who served for 20 years, “but it’s more of a platform for nonprofits and cyclists to either raise awareness for a project or to raise funds for charities.” RAAM cyclists raise more than $10 million each year for their charities of choice, according to the organization’s website. The Lancaster County team’s sponsored charity, ZOE International, is focused on helping survivors of child sex trafficking across the globe.
“ZOE is bringing freedom to many children, and I want to stand with them because I believe in what they are doing,” said team member Allan Fisher, 33, of Gordonville.
Ortenzi, ZOE’s Eastern U.S. Regional Director, has been involved with the faith-based international nonprofit with operations in five countries since 2014, when he visited their refuge house in Thailand to meet with child survivors of sex trafficking. “Every one of them was a fighter – fighting to get their life back,” he said. “Their fight inspired me and changed my life. Competing in the Race Across America allows ZOE to take this fight against child sex trafficking across the United States.” The Lancaster County team’s goal this year is to raise $250,000 for ZOE, with more than $198,000 already raised, according to ZOE International’s website.
Children’s stories motivate mission
Ortenzi had been working undercover online seeking out traders of child pornography, a job he described as “heartcrushing” work, when he began looking for a new career he could take on post-retirement. It was Ortenzi’s pastor who suggested that he reach out to ZOE, believing he would be a natural fit due to his background in law enforcement. “It was clear from the beginning that Brad has a passion for justice,” said Brian Flewelling, a pastor at Petra Church in Earl Township, which Ortenzi has attended since 2012. “He has a skillset that is unique to anyone else in the field.” Flewelling helped facilitate a meeting between Ortenzi and a person who was connected with leadership at ZOE’s Los Angeles campus.
“To see (Ortenzi) emotionally moved by the mission and mandate that ZOE was carrying, it was clear that something was happening in his heart and his spirit where their vision was being shared,” Flewelling said. “He really felt a need to be a partner in that.” From there, a trip to ZOE’s refuge for child victims of sex trafficking in Thailand was quickly arranged.
photo of Brad Ortenzi ZOE International Eastern USA
“They were cared for, they were loved, and they were on their way back to a really healthy path,” he said. Ortenzi later wrote in his journal that “it seemed like they had a grasp on joy that I didn’t.” “Never being around trafficked children before, I expected the worst,” he said. “We just didn’t see that. These kids were really on a good path.” During one prayer session, an 8-year-old girl who had been rescued from sex trafficking offered a prayer. It was for Ortenzi. Though he didn’t understand the child’s Thai language, Ortenzi said the moment made Ortenzi and his wife feel he had a new calling in life.
“’You have skills right now that could help free rescued trafficked children, and there’s no amount of retirement that could add up to that,’” Ortenzi said his wife told him. Moving from Lancaster County to Thailand was a gargantuan undertaking, Ortenzi said, but “this was something we wanted to be a part of.”
Regional Director Ortenzi and his wife arrived to find what he described as a “first-class operation” consisting of about 100 Thai staff and another two dozen international missionaries, but what really impressed him was the bravery and resilience of the children.
“It was a culture shock, but we were both world travelers before,” he said. “In the military I was all over the place.”Now back in the U.S., Ortenzi has since been tasked with helping coordinate a new anti-human trafficking task force by the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office, an effort ZOE is assisting by donating his time to the county.
Riding to raise funds, awareness
Ortenzi first came up with the idea to ride bicycles across the country to raise money for ZOE in 2018, when he and 46 others rode from Virginia to California, raising nearly $300,000 for the nonprofit, in an event unrelated to RAAM.“We realized we probably had a pretty good idea here,” he said. Ortenzi and his wife were in the process of moving back to Lancaster County from ZOE’s Thailand branch in 2019 when they learned about RAAM and decided to enter their own eight-member relay team, nearly identical in lineup to the team that’s competing this year. Some of the team members had been cycling with Ortenzi since that first cross-country trek in 2018. Others he knew from church, or from friends of friends. “They’re all just guys who love cycling and really connected with what ZOE is doing,” Ortenzi said.
The Lancaster County cyclists took their training and preparations seriously for the race, “but once we got on the road it was more intense than what we thought,” Ortenzi said. “We didn’t really know what to expect, and quite honestly we were sort of going naïve into the situation,” he said. “We trained hard and we tried to prep hard, but the logistics of this thing were almost astronomical.” The team was racing at a much faster rate of speed than what they were anticipating, throwing their lodging plans into disarray. “We were pretty much on the run and we had to make some major decisions and change things up,” Ortenzi said. Even with the logistical hurdles, the team placed third in its division, finishing with a time of six days, five hours and 52 minutes – an average of 20.3 mph.
cyclists in a hudle
“RAAM officials had mentioned that they don’t remember a rookie team ever being on the podium,” Ortenzi said. “They were pretty surprised, and we were pleasantly surprised as well.”More importantly, the team raised more than $175,000 for ZOE International.This year, team members are taking into account the lessons they learned in 2019 and are hoping to avoid some of the same mistakes they made.Training began at the end of last fall, with team members hoping to reach the peak of their cardiovascular fitness right as the race is set to begin.
Training can involve “a little bit of everything,” Ortenzi said, including swimming, weight training, running and meeting with personal trainers. Many of the more recent training regimens have taken place on bicycles, with team members riding at least four to six times each week, sometimes for hours at a time.The thousands of hours spent training for the race since the fall were made possible because of the race’s philanthropic focus, Ortenzi said.To that end, more than one dozen local businesses and organizations are backing the team.“Lancaster Countians really seem to rally around us and engage with what we’re doing,” Ortenzi said. “It became a really great awareness project for ZOE here in Lancaster County.”
ZOE International is excited to participate in the 2021 Race Across America. For 39 years, the Race Across America (RAAM) has become a global event, challenging ultra-cyclists from over 35 countries to push their physical and mental limits to the utmost. In addition, RAAM has become a huge platform for cyclists to raise funds for charities that they hold close to their hearts. Each year, RAAM cyclists raise over 10 million dollars in donations that are dispersed to multiple charities.
In 2019 ZOE International entered an 8-man cyclist team into RAAM and placed 3rd in their division and raised over $175,000 for ZOE!
Cyclists in a huddle
In 2021, we are doing it again! On June 19, 2021, eight ZOE team cyclists and 12 crew members will set out on a non-stop, 3,000-mile transcontinental relay race from California to Maryland with the goal of raising $250,000 for ZOE. We have the cyclists and our support team ready to go, but we need your help. We can’t do it alone!
Current corporate sponsors for ZOE’s RAAM team are Breeo, Country Lane Gazebos, Weaver Construction, Lapp Structures, Sensenig’s Feed Mill, Select Carpentry, Earthsource, Fisher Brothers, Eagle Rental, Urban Southern, TLS Carpentry, US Boiler Company, Lancaster Bike Shop, and Bicycle Barn. Funds raised will support the costs of participating in RAAM ($70,000) for items like entrance fees, uniforms, fuel, and
photo of brad and ZOE cycling team
Any additional monies raised over the cost of expenses will be donated to ZOE International to help rescue more children who have been trafficked and care for and restore the rescued children entrusted in ZOE’s care.
More information about RAAM sponsor benefits and the cycling fundraising pages can be found on our website.
In 2013 Brad Ortenzi and his wife Lori felt they were being called into ministry, but didn’t know exactly what that would look like. “At that time, I was working with the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Child Pornography Unit in Pennsylvania, of which I helped to start,” shared Brad. “I had worked a lot of child sex crimes in my career, but not at this level. My heart began to break for kids even more so than it had before. I was working online acting as a pedophile and getting child pornography from pedophiles. Or I would be online chatting with the bad guy, as a child, and the bad guy was trying to entice me for sex. I would get the child pornography and have to view it to document the affidavits.”
Brad’s heart was breaking for these kids who had been sexually exploited while in the background of his life he was being called to ministry. One day he heard about ZOE and their mission to rescue kids and reached out to the founders, Mike and Carol.
“Mike and Carol invited us to Thailand to see ZOE first-hand, and it was there that I experienced a life-changing event,” shared Brad. “One night in Thailand while we were participating in a prayer session with the kids, ZOE staff, and missionaries, one of the children came up and laid her hands on me and started praying for me. I just broke down. God spoke to my heart and said, ‘you have been chasing after justice your whole life, well this is what my justice looks like.’ My heart to God was like, whatever this is, I am in. I want a part of this. I want to use my investigative skills to help kids
and add to that the spiritual side of healing
After this life-altering experience, Brad and Lori went home from this missions trip with a new purpose and direction for their life. They went back home and took an early retirement. In November 2014 they sold their house and their cars and returned to Thailand as full-time missionaries with ZOE.
Director of ZOE Child Rescue Thailand
“I was being called to be the Director of ZOE Child Rescue in Thailand that was established in 2004,” said Brad. “I managed five teams. ZOE’s philosophy with missions is, you are there to work yourself out of a job. We are there to bring our experiences and skillsets of who we are, to pour into the Thai nationals, so that we can eventually back out and have them run what we’ve started. The training consists of discipleship, leadership and development.”
For five years Brad held this position at ZOE Thailand. “I enjoyed pouring into the Thai staff,” said Brad. “They were all so loving, caring, hard-working, and passionate toward the kids. I was honored to help build the structure of five teams and overjoyed to watch them run with it and make it even better.”
Prior to going into police work, Brad served in the Marine Corps for four years and then worked 20 years as a detective in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. “Those five years in Thailand were by far the most remarkable and memorable years of my career,” said Brad.
Eastern USA Regional Director, ZOE International
In 2019, Brad and his wife Lori left Thailand and moved back to the states. “Before moving back, I spoke with Mike and Carol to inquire about the possibility of expanding ZOE on the East coast,” said Brad. “We were all in to begin networking and building donor relations and I became the Eastern USA Regional Director for ZOE.”
Lancaster County Human Trafficking Task Force
Photo of Brad Ortenzi and task force
Through the east coast expansion efforts, Brad began speaking on some Human Trafficking panels and connected with Lancaster County’s Assistant District Attorney that he worked with on the Child Porn Unit. She expressed that she needed someone with Brad’s skills to come on board the County Task Force and help coordinate and put it together.
“In 2020, the Founders of ZOE agreed to donate my time to Lancaster County for me to serve as the Coordinator for the Human Trafficking Task Force,” said Brad. “As the Coordinator, I research other task forces in Pennsylvania; look at how they are structured and what is and isn’t working, and research best practices. I have been taking that research to the District Attorney’s office, and giving her my suggestions on how we should proceed. I have since created a draft and structure of the task force using a little bit of what’s working in other states, and also what is working in ZOE Thailand and Los Angeles. I have also been working to collaborate with other government, nonprofit organizations and ministries to meet the needs of the task force. I am excited. We are few months away from officially launching the task force.”
The Lancaster County Human Trafficking Task Force will work to investigate, prosecute, and find restorative paths for trafficking survivors within Lancaster County. This will also include community outreach with prevention education and awareness of trafficking.
“With ZOE’s work with the Task Force, we are going to find the gaps that need to be filled by agencies and nonprofits,” said Brad. “The vision for the future of ZOE East Coast would be to build out an advocacy system like we have in Los Angeles. There is also a possibility of opening a restorative home in Southeast Pennsylvania and enhancing some type of Christian-centered foster care for trafficked children.”
The Heart of Brad’s work and passion
“People often ask me why I do what I do,” shared Brad. “My ultimate desire is to see restoration of the children. And, it comes down to the duality of Jesus. He has a warrior heart that fights to rescue His children and He will stop at nothing to make sure those rescues happen. And then there’s the protective loving side of Him, along with the duality of His daddy restorative heart. He just wraps his arms around his kids once they are safe. That has changed my life.
I have come to a whole different level in my appreciation for who God is and how He cares for us. It’s all about the end game for me — that child accepting Jesus into their heart and worshipping Him.”
ZOE Cycling Events – Race Across America and Road of Justice
photo of brad and ZOE cycling team
ZOE’s Cycling events came about when Brad and Lori had a desire to help fundraise for the new ZOE Home for Youth that was to open in Los Angeles in 2021. “We were avid cyclists and living in Thailand at the time,” said Brad. “We thought, what if we planned a coast-to-coast cycling event – which became the first Road of Justice in 2018 – and invite people to come with us and raise awareness about human trafficking and empower people to be fundraisers for ZOE.”
The 2018 Road of Justice started in Virginia and finished in Santa Monica. “Over 45 cyclists biked 3,800 miles, in over 46 riding days,” said Brad. “Some rode for a day, some rode for weeks or months. We raised close to $300,000 that year. We realized then we had something that could work for ZOE.”
In 2019 ZOE entered an 8-man cycling team in Race Across America (RAAM). For 39 years, the RAAM has become a global icon, challenging ultra-cyclists from over 35 countries to push their physical and mental limits to the utmost. “We started the race in Oceanside and finished in Maryland,” said Brad. “We biked 3,000 miles in 6 days and 5 hours and came in third place. We averaged 20.3 miles an hour for 3,000 miles and climbed 100,000 feet. Together the team raised over $175,000 for ZOE.”
In 2021 Brad and his team of 8 cyclists and 10 crew plans to participate in RAAM on June 19, 2021. “Our goal is to raise $250,000 for ZOE to help fight human trafficking. Looking at the rosters of the other teams, we have a shot to win this!”
Another ZOE Cycling event, the Road of Justice, is scheduled for October 11-16, 2021. Any cyclist can participate in this event. The race will begin in San Francisco and end in Santa Clarita. For more information or to participate as a cyclist, visit our website.
You may have heard about “human trafficking” in the news, from social media, or maybe even from someone you know. But what is it exactly? How and where does it happen? How does someone become a victim? And who are the traffickers? How can you help? Although human trafficking is a complex issue with many layers, we hope to answer some questions you may have that can encourage you to want to learn more.
“Human trafficking” is a crime that involves forcing, defrauding (deceiving), or coercing (pressuring or threatening) someone to provide labor or commercial sexual acts. According to the International Labour Organization, there are currently an estimated 40.3 million human trafficking victims worldwide, including forced marriages. Exploiters profit off of the forced labor and forced sex of victims.
How Does Human Trafficking Happen?
A person may be offered an exciting job in a different country, only to find themselves arriving to the other country, having their passport taken, forced to work under dangerous conditions doing completely different work than expected, and told they have to pay off the debt of their travels, housing, and visa before they begin to earn any income. This is labor trafficking. In another scenario, a woman may be romanced by an attractive man who showers her with gifts, attention, and “love,” only to isolate her from her family and friends; begin to verbally, emotionally, physically, and sexually abuse her; and pressure her to provide sexual acts for money in order for them to make ends meet. This is sex trafficking.
What About Child Trafficking?
Globally, 1 in 4 victims of human trafficking are estimated to be children. “Child trafficking” involves selling a child for labor or sex. When children are involved, force, fraud, or coercion do not have to be proven for it to be considered trafficking, as children cannot consent to being abused. A family friend may offer to move a child from their remote village to the city to attend a good school, but upon arrival, the child may be abused for sex in a brothel. Or a child may be invited to run away from a group home by an older friend and taken care of by someone the older friend knows, only to be told they owe what has been provided to them and now have to go on the street or to a motel and provide sexual services for money that is paid to the trafficker.
What are the Psychological implications of human trafficking?
While victims of trafficking can be kidnapped, drugged, and forced into exploitation, many are psychologically groomed and manipulated into making them feel like they have chosen the life and circumstances they are in, not realizing they have been targeted because of their need or desire for food, money, clothing, housing, drugs, love, or friendship in order to be exploited.
Traffickers target the vulnerabilities of individuals, especially in their greatest time of need in order to profit off of them. How different could the outcome be if in crisis, the person met a safe person who wants to help them instead of someone who wants to make money off of them?
What About Labor Trafficking?
Labor trafficking can occur in industries like agriculture, food, domestic work, and entertainment, while sex trafficking can occur in pornography, massage businesses, and escort services on the street, in hotels, in homes, and on the internet.
Who becomes a human trafficker?
Traffickers can be part of organized crime networks, friends or family, gang members, intimate partners, employers, and business owners. But traffickers can also be victims of violence and abuse themselves, sometimes groomed to become exploiters by those close to them.
What can I do about Human Trafficking?
While all of this information is overwhelming and the problem is daunting, we as individuals and communities can be part of the solution by:
Protecting ourselves and our loved ones by being safe people for them to seek help from when they are in unsafe situations
Educating ourselves about the signs of trafficking and asking questions and offering support if we are seeing signs of someone who may be in unsafe situations
Raising awareness about trafficking with our personal networks
Educating ourselves about internet safety and monitoring the internet usage of the young ones in our lives
Donating time, professional skills, or financial support to local organizations who are helping survivors of trafficking
Learning about becoming a foster parent to children who need a safe home
Advocating for someone to share about human trafficking at your child’s school, church, community group, business
Reporting suspected trafficking to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888
ZOE International is committed to ending child trafficking through prevention, rescue, and restoration efforts throughout the world. To learn more, visit gozoe.org.
the land of the rising sun. It’s a name that is associated with state-of-the-art technology, a superb transport infrastructure, attention to detail, quality workmanship, and a humble, polite culture. No wonder that people are surprised to learn that below the shiny surface, things are not always what they seem.
A long history of sexual objectification of women and children has led to a society that has become numb to the sexual exploitation of children. Thousands of children are trapped in various forms of trafficking with nowhere to turn!
But there is HOPE.
ZOE Japan is called to be a voice-for-the-voiceless, and we are fully committed to the kingdom goal of eliminating child trafficking in Japan. God has blessed our small team with a unique set of skills that enables us to reach out to vulnerable children and victims in new ways.
Japan is the home of manga, a unique style of Japanese comic books or graphic novels. It is a powerful communication tool with great potential to be used for prevention work. After all, Jesus himself was a great storyteller and although He did not use manga, His parables continue to convey crucial messages to us until this day. Our trial project to produce our own short manga story was an interesting learning experience, and we are encouraged to see that our format seems to appeal to Japanese young people. New stories are now underway.
In addition to various speaking opportunities and outreaches, we have just launched our own podcast channel in English, with a Japanese version coming very soon. Each episode helps the listener to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges that Japan is facing, the various initiatives by the government, ZOE and other NPOs to combat child trafficking, and the additional programs and resources that are required to make a true impact. Our first three episodes can be found on any major podcast app by searching ZOE Japan, or directly on our dedicated web page www.gozoe.jp/podcast.
We are also excited about:
New doors that are opening to reach Japan through the performing arts, and have taken the first step by producing a beautiful music video in collaboration with a local Christian artist. The video is sure to touch the heart of any vulnerable teenager, and provides a bridge for us to share the gospel of Jesus, and to educate them about the dangers of trafficking. See the video on the ZOE Japan YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xbRRC8dl1E
God is moving in Japan, for sure.
If you feel the Holy Spirit tugging at your heart strings, then don’t hesitate! Partner with us today, because together we can reach every person and rescue every child.